My 10 to Watch to Close 2014

TIFF has come and gone. Fall is officially beginning. It is the best time of year for movies. Festival favorites, Oscar hopefuls and holiday blockbusters all comingle in the most wonderful time of the year.

There will be dozens of worthwhile movies hitting theatres from now until December 31st; these are the ten that I am looking forward to the most. The ten are a combination of foreign films that have garnered heavy acclaim at Cannes, Venice or other notable venues to date, new works by major auteurs and possible greats in the making. So, on the eve of fall and the rush of the upcoming season, here we go.

A Most Violent Year : Coming out on the very last day of the year, A Most Violent Year hopefully continues the rise of writer-director J.C. Chandor, whose first two films (Margin Call & All is Lost) were tightly wound dramas, despite having little in common on the surface. This time Chandor has two amazing leads (Jessica Chastain & Oscar Isaac), an intriguing supporting cast (Albert Brooks, David Oyewolo) and a tale of crime in early 80s New York City.

Birdman : Having already shown to glowing reviews, the new picture by Alejandro Inarritu (Babel) looks gorgeous from the trailers and has a stellar cast. That said, it’s all about Michael Keaton getting a – supposedly – worthwhile role for the first time in ages as a down-on-his-luck actor hoping to reignite his career after it burned out post-superhero films. Keaton is an actor who can go big and bonkers, which is exactly what Birdman appears to be; hopefully.

Clouds of Sils Maria Fact; Oliver Assayas is amongst my five favorite directors. Fact; Juliette Binoche is amongst my five favorite actresses. Nothing else is necessary.

Duke of Burgundy Word out of TIFF and Fantastic Fest is that this yarn of two women who test the boundaries of their emotional and physical love is gloriously nutso. When the words giallo and romance are thrown together, consider me pumped.

Foxcatcher : Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are the stars of the possible Oscar frontrunner. It’s the true story of an Olympic wrestler, his trainer and those around him. It’s also said to be dark, brooding and terrifying; i.e. this ain’t Rudy. Bennett Miller directs it, a man whose only two pictures to date (Capote & Moneyball) have worked non-fiction into excellence, able to nimbly take years of info and naturally cram it into one linear effort.

Gone Girl : David Fincher doesn’t always hit a homerun. When Fincher does though, he makes films that are amongst the best of the past twenty-five years. Fingers-crossed for more Zodiac/Fight Club/The Social Network and not a Panic Room/Benjamin Button.

Inherent Vice : After a pair of pictures by Paul Thomas Anderson with big themes, ideas and moods, he may be heading towards a more narratively loose realm again with this Thomas Pynchon adaptation. The 70s, drugs and detective work all show their faces, with Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and an apparently resurgent Reese Witherspoon leading the way. PTA has been on an almost unparallel streak and I have little doubt it will continue.

Mr. Turner : Mike Leigh made this movie. That’s enough.

Two Days, One Night : Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have made six great movies in a row. The kind of great where that word doesn’t even seem sufficient. With Hayao Miyazaki retired, I’ve been trying to determine who my favorite filmmaker/s are working today; these two are the answer. So yes, I want to see a movie that they made.

Winter Sleep : I’m a bit late to this whole Nuri Bilge Ceylan fandom. I’ve only seen Once Upton a Time in Anatolia and Climates, each quiet, meditative features that are quite masterful visions. His newest won the Palme d’Or at Cannes early this year and his most knowledgeable followers have said its his best work to date. Considering how stellar what’s been done so far, that is high praise.

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